Former Diplomats Call for Nuanced Approach to Newly Empowered Taliban in Afghanistan
Former Diplomats Call for Nuanced Approach to Newly Empowered Taliban in Afghanistan

By Liam Cosgrove

As we approach the two-year anniversary of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan later this summer, the international community is grappling with how to approach the country’s new regime. The Taliban’s recent acquisition of billions in U.S. military equipment has led some diplomats to argue that a nuanced approach relying on politics over military intervention and sanctions is necessary to secure meaningful progress.

On Monday, the former ambassador of Pakistan to the United States, Husain Haqqani, spoke at the Hudson Institute with Adela Raz, former ambassador of Afghanistan to the United States. Both agreed that sanctions are not the answer. 

“Sanctions were not effective in many countries, and it will not be effective in Afghanistan,” Raz argued. “I wanted to be clear that I personally am not in support of sanctioning the country… I support sanctions on the Taliban’s leadership.”

Haqqani concurred, saying sanctions hurt commoners while leaving the ruling class largely untouched.

“People in power know how to evade sanctions for themselves,” he said. “We saw that in Iraq. Saddam Hussein and his regime did all right.”

People shelter from the rain outside a shop in Kabul on March 22, 2023. (Wakil Kohsar/AFP via Getty Images)

Haqqani believes that the Taliban’s desire for acceptance on the world stage can be leveraged to secure greater freedom for the Afghani people. When asked by The Epoch Times, he suggested a policy of stigmatization.

“The Taliban are really eager for international recognition and acceptance, being able to be normal in the world,” the diplomat said. “If we do not normalize the Taliban, there will be forces within the Taliban and within Afghan society that will reassert themselves politically.”

His counterpart Raz offered an array of solutions, ranging from enhanced protection of Taliban dissidents to enhancing Afghani access to the internet and communication tools, mentioning Elon Musk’s Starlink as a potential avenue for achieving this.

“They are on the ground. They are the ones who raise their voices,” she told The Epoch Times. “We have to find tools inside the country that would help them to be protected.”

Both diplomats strongly ruled out a U.S. military engagement in the nation, after decades of warfare.

“I lost my family members to this war,” Raz said. “At this stage, I think a military solution is pretty hard for me [to support].”

Taliban fighters keeping a watch at an outpost in Tawakh Village of Anaba district, Panjshir Province, Afghanistan, on July 8, 2022. (Wakil Khosar/AFP via Getty Images)

Haqqani mentioned that “Afghanistan has seen war now since 1979.” The former diplomat instead recommends a balance of opposition towards Taliban rule as well as violent confrontations.

China Entering the Region

One factor that complicates the situation in Afghanistan is China’s growing involvement in the region. 

“China is already moving into Afghanistan,” warned Haqqani. “There’s a very small narrow corridor that separates China from Afghanistan.”

Beijing has recently strengthened financial ties with the newly Taliban-controlled Kabul, which should warrant the attention of the Biden administration, Haqqani argued.

“China has just signed an agreement with the Taliban to extract oil in the Amu Darya basin,” he said. “They will be involved there economically.”

In January, the Afghan Minister of Mines and Petroleum and representatives of the Chinese National Petroleum Corporation agreed to grant the Chinese firms drilling access to over 1,700 square miles of land in northern Afghanistan. 

The deal is expected to provide a much-needed boost to Afghanistan’s economy, according to Taliban officials, but Haqqani and some U.S. officials worry it is the beginning of a strategic partnership against the West.

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